NBA

Knicks trade rumors: New York open to using sizeable cap space to acquire bad contracts in exchange for assets

The New York Knicks made a lot of mistakes in 2019, but perhaps the most avoidable was their ill-advised refusal to take on bad contracts in exchange for assets. The Knicks were so deadset on signing too many power forwards that they missed the opportunity to take on Andre Iguodala’s contract when the Golden State Warriors were desperate to get it off of their books. The Memphis Grizzlies capitalized, getting a first-round pick from the Warriors for their troubles before flipping Iguodala to Miami for Justise Winslow at the trade deadline. The cap space the Knicks spent on others, meanwhile, led to yet another lottery appearance. 

Fortunately, it seems as if the Leon Rose regime has learned from Steve Mills’ mistakes. According to SNY’s Ian Begley, the Knicks have made it known that they are willing to absorb bad contracts in exchange for assets. As their cap space is virtually limitless this offseason, that would theoretically make them a player for almost any bad contract in basketball … for the right price. 

That price should be quite high. This is undoubtedly a seller’s market when it comes to cap space. Only four teams are expected to have anything close to max cap space: the Knicks, Pistons, Hornets and Hawks. Far more teams, however, are going to be dealing with pandemic-induced financial issues. Whether that involves the luxury tax, long-term savings or the need for more immediate space is immaterial. The Knicks should have plenty of interested customers for their space. 

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Such a deal would help the Knicks on several fronts. First and foremost, it would add to an ever-increasing war chest of draft assets for the Knicks. After years of owing picks to other teams, the Knicks currently have all of their own picks in addition to a first-rounder from the Clippers and two from the Mavericks. The other advantage? It would protect the Knicks from themselves to an extent. The more cap space they use absorbing bad contracts, the less they have to make a shortsighted short-term trade. 

The Knicks have been linked to Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Victor Oladipo. None of those players would lift the Knicks into immediate championship contention. All of them would probably cost the Knicks assets, whereas a dumping deal could get them some. All three have injury and/or age red flags. Acquiring any would fit the pattern the Knicks have established over the past two decades of prioritizing name value over practical value. 

But the notion that the Knicks would consider renting out their cap space in exchange for assets is a step in the right direction. It is the sort of move that teams with foresight make. The Knicks aren’t going to contend next season. They aren’t going to contend in the near future. They therefore don’t need their cap space for immediate help. They need to wield it as a tool for improvement down the line, when RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson are closer to their primes and winning is a feasible goal. This sort of trade would be a step in that direction. 

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